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Our Core Values

  • Integrity and self-reflection are the hallmark of outstanding school leaders—self-management.
  • Showing up, being present, awareness are the keys to success in work and life—self-awareness.
  • The strength of our relationships, combined with the actions we take, determine  success— relationship management.
  • Influence within schools begins with listening with genuine interest—social awareness.

Our Coaching Philosophy

Leadership coaching is combination of knowledge, skill and heart. It comes from the depth of commitment to transforming society one conversation at a time, one relationship at a time. By supporting growth and development of school leaders, we support growth and development of children because our future depends on self-motivated children engaged in learning and compassionate in action.

About Valerie

Valerie Brown is Principal of Lead Smart Coaching, LLC in New Hope, PA, specializing in leadership coaching of school leaders. She is a certified Leadership Coach and leadership educator and is passionate about working with school leaders and teams toward greater authenticity and integrity in work and life.
valerie brownHer expertise spans over two decades as a successful attorney-lobbyist representing legal and educational institutions, giving her a keen client-centered, results-oriented perspective.

She holds several degrees, including a BA, MA and JD. Trained at Georgetown University’s Center for Transformational Leadership, the Center for Courage & Renewal and with Parker J. Palmer, and the Center for Mindfulness in Healthcare, Medicine and Society, Valerie understands the importance of emotional IQ in shaping leaders and creating trustworthy relationships.

She is trained in administering the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® personality inventory, the world’s most widely used personality assessment to improve leadership and team building. Trained too as a mediator, she recognizes the value of conflict resolution to promote cooperation and collaboration.

A skilled mindfulness teacher, Valerie has been practicing mindfulness since 1995, and teaching mindfulness since 2001 at Pendle Hill, a Quaker Study, Retreat & Conference Center.  She has completed the Practicum in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and the Teacher Development Intensive at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society.  In 2003, she was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh as a lay member of the Tiep Hien Order.

An accomplished author, she has written extensively on the topic of mindfulness.  Her publications by Pendle Hill include:  The Mindful Quaker, Living from the Center, and Heartfulness:  Renewing Heart, Mind and Spirit on Retreat and Beyond.  She is writing a new book on mindfulness and school leaders, expected to be published in 2014.

Her multidisciplinary background strongly influences her approach to work and her writing points to powerful transformation through mindful awareness and greater trust among people.

My Multidisciplinary Approach Builds From an Array of Experiences and Learning

Valerie Brown lives in beautiful Bucks County, Pennsylvania with her husband John Strachan. She is a former member of the Board of Trustees of Buckingham Friends School, established in 1792. An avid gardener, she completed training as a Master Gardner, and was featured speaker at the Philadelphia Flower Show, the world’s largest. She is a certified Kundalini yoga teacher (500 hours), completing her training in 2000. Grounded in a strong faith tradition, Valerie is a Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) and is a long-time student of Buddhism.

Valerie has traveled throughout the world, completing many pilgrimages and solo journeys, including El Camino de Santiago, Spain, Iona, Scotland, and the 88 Temples of Shikoku, Japan, and has led several pilgrimage to New Mexico and to India. An accomplished author, her book on mindfulness, travel and transformation is entitled, The Road that Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel. (QuakerBridge Media, 2012).  Having recently organized and co-led an inter-faith pilgrimage across north India in February 2013, she is organizing and leading, for 2014, the pilgrimage of El Camino de Santiago, across the north of Spain.

She is a passionate volunteer advocate for the Quaker organization, Right Sharing of World Resources, which provides micro-credit loans to women in Africa, India and South America.


The Mindfulness Bell Reviews Valerie’s Book: The Road That Teaches: Lessons in Transformation through Travel   


Quakerbridge Media of Friends General Congress, 2012
Softcover, 152 pages

Reviewed by Judith Toy, True Door of Peace

The rambling spirit of this well-organized pilgrim’s primer seems woven into the wind. This travel guide not only provides tips for exploring the sacred world on foot, but also includes tales of exquisite detail and the author’s own personal revelations from the road.

Each chapter contains a small gift in the form of a question to ask ourselves, which may equate to a Quaker query or a Zen koan. At one point, the traveler arrives at a place with two fields: “Two plots, side by side, one wild and one tamed, are much like two competing forces in my life. … How do I acknowledge the wild parts of me, that want to plant garlic in a high desert farm, to Mambo well, and to learn to weave from a Navajo woman? The questions are deeper than the answers.”

Following in Brown’s footsteps, we hear the echo of our teacher—“I have arrived, I am home”—wherever we go. We travel with Brown through the famous El Camino, the enchanted Irish Isle of Iona, the sacred temples of India, Japan’s traditional pilgrimage route through rocks and temples, Shikoku Island, and places closer to home. With each step we are treated to historical nuggets such as the history of Indian Kanchipuram temples, which are dedicated either to Shiva, the destroyer, or to Vishnu, the sustainer of life.

In the introduction, Brown suggests that we “[u]se this book as a prayer book and guide book for contemplation, discernment and reflection.” Her emphasis is on inspiration, whether she is mightily challenged by the weather or rough terrain, or taking a much-needed rest. The end of each chapter contains a practice lesson in mindfulness, and the book even includes a Sample Packing List and Traveler’s Resource Guide. Peppered throughout, like blossoms along the road, are illuminating quotations, like this Spanish proverb introducing the section on afternoon tea in Iona: “How wonderful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards.”

More Great Reviews!  Read Below…

“When I picked up the book and read the introduction and end papers, I had a sense that I needed to read this right now….there was an urgency that rarely touches me. I read, on the way home, the first chapter of your journey to El Camino. It was a rich and deep reading. I kept going from the text to a map on my iPad, so that I could physically look at the ground you were travelling.

Most importantly, your insights about the deeper, higher calling of travel called me to examine travel in my life….when I choose to travel, how and why. Your intentionality around sacred pilgrimage pointed to the lack of clear intention in my travel. Somebody asks me to go somewhere, and I jump on a plane and off I go. I rarely consider the inner cost of journeying. This is what your book called me to.

And, here is the most critical and amazing gift: I came away from the Gathering commited to being more centered and intentional in my work life. Having zipped around the country a lot over the past two years, I have been burning with the inner call to slow down, to live here, at home, with more intention.

When I got home, I had an invitation to present a workshop (through the International Baccalureate) in Lisbon, Portugal in mid November. Before reading the chapter in your book, I would have jumped on the opportunity to add international credits to my teaching credentials, to have an experience (quick…only 5 days!) of another culture and to escape the everydayness of my work. Your wisdom around the gifts of “deeper travel” were so very important to me, Valerie.

I will be purchasing your text as a gift for every teacher who retires from my school….everyone I know who carries the dream of travel.

Thank you, deeply, for allowing me to carry this book home with me. I so needed your spirit and your clarity.”

Diane Petteway, International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program Coordinator, East Millbrook Magnet Middle School, Raleigh, North Carolina